At DAS42, Breaking Down Big Data Problems Starts With a Focus on People

Employees from DAS42 share how a people-first culture celebrates curiosity and achieves impactful results.

Written by Robert Schaulis
Published on Nov. 03, 2022
At DAS42, Breaking Down Big Data Problems Starts With a Focus on People

“I think a big win for me on any given day would be seeing my team members excel.”

According to Cassidy Stearns and her colleague Keith Kruelskie — both consulting team leads for data analytics consulting and professional services firm DAS42 — seeing team members succeed counts as a win for the day. And those wins, propped up with the company’s full-stack philosophy and its culture of curiosity, are racking up week over week. “Just seeing my team learn something new or figure out how to do this one specific line of code work — that’s what I really love to see,” Stearns said. 

Below, Stearns, Kruelskie and Technical Project Manager Aishwarya Chaya Raj delve into how DAS42’s unique culture of learning and curiosity have kept the three engaged and excited for what’s next in the company’s chapter. 

 

Joining a Stacked Team

In their role, Stearns and Kruelskie oversee teams of analysts focused on a variety of projects — projects as narrow as optimizing the function of a specific internal tool and as broad as advising on the entirety of a client’s data architecture. 

“We don’t specialize in one specific area within the data stack, and we also don’t specialize within one specific industry. We are experts over the entire data pipeline,” Stearns said. “So, we start at the very beginning — understanding the business, understanding what’s actually going to be meaningful data for the business, what questions they’re trying to answer. And then we create a solution, all the way from the beginning to the end again.”

DAS42 prides itself on this “full-stack philosophy” — on having expertise up and down the data pipeline and working on large projects that span that entire pipeline. The joys of DAS42’s work are found in moments in which curiosity pays dividends, like when team members at DAS42 realize the impact that even a single line of code can have on a massive project. 

“Seeing an analyst’s face light up when they figure out what the tiny little bug was that they needed to fix in their SQL query that causes the whole thing to work correctly is a joy. It really is,” Kruelskie said. 

Curiosity, people and impact are DAS42’s cultural pillars, and in Stearns and Kruelskie’s accounts of successes at the ground level, you can see some of the ways in which these pillars operate. People exercise and are celebrated for their curiosity, and the work they generate through that curiosity can have an outsized impact on DAS42’s clientele. 

“A really important part of our full-stack philosophy is we want to reduce the time to insight for our customers so that all this work that we’re doing to make the data available and share it is something that can provide real business impact at the end of the day,” Kruelskie said. “We work to break data out of silos and get it into the hands of people that can make decisions with it quickly.”

 

The DAS42 team poses for a photograph
DAS42

 

‘Everyone’s here to help you out’

When Technical Project Manager Aishwarya Chaya Raj went through the interview process to join DAS42 in July 2020, one of the first things she noticed about the company was a focus on curiosity and a willingness to help team members learn and grow. 

“I had an amazing interview panel,” Raj said. “My chief delivery officer is super great. Almost the second I joined our interview, I thought ‘I want to be here because I’m going to learn so much.’ That’s what differentiated this company from my other offers.”

Upon joining the company, Raj said there was an openness to sharing input. By creating a culture that welcomes perspectives from all team members, DAS42 has been able to foster a truly collaborative and inclusive workplace.

“There’s no hierarchy, in a way. You don’t ever feel like you just joined the team so you can’t provide suggestions or feedback to the team,” Raj said. “Of course there are expectations, but at the same time, you’re not alone. Everyone’s here to help you out. Everyone is super helpful and collaborative.”

 

DAS42 team members in matching Hawaiian shirts at a baseball game
DAS42

 

Stearns echoed Raj’s sentiment, noting that not only are new employees encouraged to offer input but company leadership at the highest level is not above chiming in to offer advice on problems. Whether it’s through a Slack message or a formal feedback process, DAS42’s leadership is keen on contributing to the conversation and encouraging employees to do the same. To this end, leadership solicits questions and feedback at monthly company-wide meetings. 

With regard to formal feedback, DAS42 team members enjoy what Kruelskie calls a nice cadence of one-on-one and small team meetings in the course of the company’s day to day. And while the company employs six-month reviews to help team members and management stay aligned, Stearns noted that the frequency and the frankness with which input is given takes some of the potential fear factors out of these meetings. 

“A huge piece of our culture is giving feedback at the moment,” Stearns said. “So when it comes down to those twice-a-year reviews, nothing’s really surprising at that point because you’re getting feedback constantly.”

At DAS42, feedback is also part of a culture that wants to maximize opportunities for learning. And in the DAS42 classroom, Raj said there is one stand-out opportunity to spread technical know-how and learn from one’s peers. 

 

Right: DAS42 team member relax in brightly colored hammocks outside the office. Left: DAS42 team members celebrate while holding a frame that reads "Palm Springs 2022"
DAS42

 

Show and Tell

“I love going to show-and-tell sessions. I’ve learned so much.” 

At DAS42, Raj and others teams that have engaged with exciting problems and built novel solutions have the opportunity to share their experiences. Through one-hour, show-and-tell sessions, team members engage in the work of their peers, the problems that they are engaged in solving, and the ways in which their colleagues’ experiences and ideas might be applicable to their own work. 

“Because we are a consulting company, we all work in different teams with different industries and very different types of projects. It’s all data engineering, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty different,” Raj said. “It’s not like you always have to go and do your own research and find a solution from scratch. You have people around you who are telling you about all these cool approaches you can take.”  

Show-and-tell sessions are one of many ways in which DAS42 employees are encouraged to pursue continuous improvement. Team members can also take advantage of a continuing education stipend, online coursework, paid industry certification programs and other perks designed to push DAS42’s people forward in their careers with the company. 

“Doing these industry certifications are great for your career and for the company because you’re learning more about the basics of data science and data analytics,” Raj said. “It supports broader personal and professional goals on top of the company’s goals.”

 

Commitment to Cultivating Talent

DAS42 employees are encouraged to continue their education and professional development through online course subscriptions, an education stipend, and paid industry certification programs in a variety of high-demand programs including Snowflake, Looker and AWS.

 

Honing Skills, Cultivating Culture

Another way in which individuals can contribute to DAS42’s culture and provide leadership and direction to the company is through the company’s councils, which are designed to help team members take ownership of the company and advance important initiatives in areas like professional development and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). 

“It’s a very direct way to take some ownership within the company,” said Stearns, who serves on the company’s DEIB council. “You’re helping guide some pretty key pillars of our culture.”

Kruelskie plays an instrumental role as the co-chair of DAS42’s Trainer’s Council, working as a liaison between management, human resources and individual contributors at the company to identify skills and areas of expertise that the company’s employees would like to improve and to find beneficial ways to help those employees grow their skills and continue to learn and progress professionally.

“I think the real guiding light behind this is that as individual contributors at DAS42 — with the mindset that we are to continually learn — have a good idea of the things that we want to learn and maybe the skills gaps that we see when we go on projects or come off projects,” Kruelskie said. “It’s a good way to bring that feedback to our HR team who’s in charge of developing people.”

 

The DAS42 team attending an off-site event in matching Hawaiian shirts
DAS42

 

The Point is People

Ultimately, Stearns noted, DAS42’s culture operates as a result of and in service to its people — a group of intensely curious tech professionals committed to doing impactful work in the service of its customers. And when you invest in people, their expertise is amplified for companies who partner with DAS42.

“I think a big piece of our value proposition is that when you’re hiring DAS42 on as consultants, you’re not just hiring that project team that you’re working with,” Stearns said. “You’re actually hiring the entire hive mind of the company because we have such a collaborative culture. We’re putting everyone’s ideas forward to help our clients find solutions.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by DAS42.

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